When it’s Three o’clock in New York, it’s Still 1938 in London
“When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London.” ― Bette Midler
Masood and I spent three days in London, way too short to truly get to know this beautiful city. My sister, her husband, and their precious daughter live there, and our days there went by in a blink of an eye. With hardly any time for proper sight-seeing, the lovely couple drove us around the city and showed us as much as possible.
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square
This structure was established in 1824, which means this building is 191 years old! Trafalgar became the location of choice so that the gallery could be easily accessed on foot by lower classes from London’s East End, and by the wealthier classes arriving by carriage from the west. The Gallery’s mission was to make art free and accessible to all ( and not just for privileged classes).
Perhaps the most famous painting in the National Gallery collection is Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, painted in 1888.
Opening hours: Daily 10am – 6pm, Friday 10am – 9pm
To protect paintings, copyright of loans, etc, photography is not permitted in exhibitions.
Just outside the National Gallery, you may run into Spiderman with hula hoops.
He doesn’t look so happy, does he?
Trafalgar Square is filled with tourists, most of them simply sitting on the steps of the National Gallery or hanging around the fountains.
Because you can’t be visiting London for the first time and not take a picture of this. Masood and I took turns taking pictures of us with the phone box. He had about 2 pictures taken of himself and I had approximately 20. Our photographer, my lovely sister, was as enthusiastic as us and kept taking pictures until, much to our embarrassment, a queue has formed. We apologized for keeping everyone and promptly left.
Spot a hackney carriage!
It’s that cute, black car on the right. It’s also known as the black cab. The name ‘hackney’ was once thought to be derived from the French word haquenée—a horse of medium size recommended for lady riders; however, current opinion is that it is derived from the village name Hackney (now part of London).
Just last month, it was reported that black cab drivers have repeatedly complained they are losing earnings as a result of private hire cars and apps such as Uber, which they allege are not being subjected to the same licensing rules as black cabs. As a result, thousands of wives, husbands and families of Licensed London Black Cab drivers have planned to come together to protest on September 5th.
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Her Majesty’s Theatre is situated on Haymarket in the City of Westminster, London, and was constructed in 1897, making this building 118 years old.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera has played continuously at Her Majesty’s since 1986.
Interesting fact: the name of the theatre changes with the gender of the monarch. It first became the King’s Theatre on the accession of George I. Then it became Her Majesty’s on the accession of Elizabeth II.
Royal Opera Arcade: the world’s oldest existing shopping arcade
This was designed by John Nash—the same dude responsible for designing the Buckingham Palace—and was completed in 1818, making this mall 197 years old!
The London Pavilion
This building that houses Ripley’s Believe it or Not! is located on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street on the north-east side of Piccadilly Circus in London. This was established in 1859, making this structure 156 years old.
The basement of this building connects with Piccadilly Circus tube station and the rest of the Trocadero Centre. My sister and her husband were amazing hosts and spoilt us by driving us around the city so we did not experience London’s tube.
The Trocadero: where a new budget hotel is coming up
That building on the left was originally built in 1896 as a restaurant, making it 119 years old.
Today, this huge Trocadero building on Piccadilly Circus is to be turned into the West End’s biggest budget hotel. While the main façade of the building will remain intact, the hotel rooms will be compact windowless pods, a concept popular in Japanese hotels that aims to maximise space.
Work has already begun on the 583 room three star hotel, which will open in 2017 and where a night’s stay is likely to cost around £100 to £150.
Wait! £100 to £150 is budget?!
The Admiralty Arch: to become a lavish hotel soon
This impressive structure was completed in 1812, making it 203 years old today!
In 2011, as part of the government’s austerity programme, the building became vacant and was put up for sale for a reported £60 million. In October 2012, the winning bidder—a Spanish fellow—decided to turn the property into a luxury hotel. The property was sold as a 125-year lease. When ready, a night in this luxury hotel will cost you £850.
The Buckingham Palace
This is the London residence and principal workplace of the monarchy of the United Kingdom since the 1920s, it’s balcony one of the most famous in the world.
I had seen pictures of this building and watched it on the TV since I was a little girl (I was going through the whole fairytale-fascination-with-prince-and-princesses stage) and, to be honest, I found it a smaller than I had imagined it to be. Don’t get me wrong – this place is massive; the palace has 775 rooms! It just wasn’t as huge as I had always imagined it to be.
The Tower Bridge: which I had always assumed to be the London Bridge
The bridge was inaugurated in 1894, which means it’s 121 years old today and still a busy crossing of the Thames! River traffic is now much reduced, but it still takes priority over road traffic. So, if you need to go through with your boat, a 24 hours’ notice is required before opening the bridge, and opening times are published in advance on the bridge’s website.
Interesting fact: normally, the bascules are only raised to an angle sufficient for the vessel to safely pass under the bridge, except in the case of a vessel with the Monarch on board in which case they are raised fully no matter the size of the vessel.
Also, a new glass walkway has recently been unveiled at London’s Tower Bridge which gives visitors a bird’s eye view of traffic.
City Hall: a modern London landmark
Located on the south bank of the Thames, this modern structure opened in July 2002, making it 13 years old today. While it is the home of the offices for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly, London City Hall is not technically the headquarters of the London municipal services or government.
The unique bulbous design was created with the highest demands of energy efficiency in mind by reducing its outer surface area and thereby requiring less energy to heat.
Parts of the City Hall is open to public Mondays to Thursdays from 8.30am to 6pm and on Fridays from 8.30am to 5.30pm. They host regular exhibitions here, usually on topics relating to London or that have been created by Londoners. All exhibitions are free and open to everyone to see.
Have you been to London? What’s your favorite building or structure there?